NRC Staff Proposes $110,000 Fine Against Commonwealth Edison for Discriminating Against Worker Who Raised Safety Issues




801 Warrenville Road, Lisle IL 60532


November 5, 1999

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NRC Staff Proposes $110,000 Fine Against Commonwealth Edison
for Discriminating Against Worker Who Raised Safety Issues

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has proposed a $110,000 fine against Commonwealth Edison Company for discriminating against an employee who raised safety issues in October 1997 at the Zion Nuclear Power Station.

The utility subsequently ceased operation of the Zion Station, located at Zion, Illinois.

NRC regulations prohibit employers at nuclear facilities from discriminating against employees who raise safety issues.

An NRC investigation determined that a mid-level manager at the plant discriminated against a Senior Reactor Operator who recommended that a pump be removed from service for troubleshooting as a result of an oil leak and who questioned the performance of a component in the emergency diesel generator system.

According to the investigation, the manager deferred the worker's planned participation in a program which would qualify him for a supervisory position and lowered a performance appraisal prepared by the worker's direct supervisor.

The results of the investigation, conducted in 1998, were discussed with the utility in a predecisional enforcement conference on July 7.

In notifying the utility of the proposed fine, James E. Dyer, NRC Regional Administrator, stated: "The NRC is concerned that discrimination by a mid-level plant official, along with the many additional employment discrimination allegations that were made about the management of the Zion Station at the same time, may have the potential to create a chilling effect among the employees who remain at the Zion Station and the employees transferred from the Zion Station to other NRC-licensed facilities operated by Commonwealth Edison."

The NRC staff directed the company to respond to the specific violation and, in addition, address whether employees at its nuclear facilities are working in a "safety conscious" work environment in which they feel free to readily report nuclear safety concerns.

The company has until December 3 to pay the fine or protest it. If the fine is protested and subsequently imposed by the NRC staff, Commonwealth Edison may request a hearing.

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